Where do small wild cats live?

The small wild cats live in a very wide range of landscapes (habitats). They live in deserts in the case of one small wild cat, the sand cat, and they live in trees in forests such as the margay. We will find them in tropical forests, grasslands (Argentina and Brazil) and in arboreal forests in the Northern Hemisphere. You will also see the small wild cat species high above sea level at up to more than 18,000 feet in the Andes of South America and the Tibetan plateau (Andean mountain cat).

Where do small wild cats live?
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You won’t see small wild cats or any wild cat species at all other than large feral cats on the continent of Australia. And neither will you see small cats on the continent of Antarctica.

They don’t occur on oceanic islands such as New Guinea, Madagascar, Hawaii and the Galapagos. Although you will see them on the islands off the coast of South America such as Trinidad and on the island of Chiloe off the coast of Chile. Also, you’ll see small wild cat species on the south-eastern Asian islands of Palawan, Borneo, Java and Sumatra.

RELATED: 17 facts about the small wild cats of the Americas

There is an imaginary line called the Wallace’s Line which passes between the islands of Bali and Lombok, east of which no small cats are found. And there are no small cats on the islands of Lombok, Sulawesi or New Guinea.

Small wild cats could live in Australia and Madagascar or any oceanic island provided there was sufficient prey. Knowing how the Australian feral cats thrive so belligerently in the outback of that continent, it seems certain that small wild cats would have thrived in Australia but historical geographics prevented any cat occupying that continent: There are no native cats in Australia.

Below is a list of the small wild cats and the continents and countries where they live which may interest people:

US and Canada

  1. bobcat
  2. Canada lynx
  3. ocelot

Mexico and Central America

  1. bobcat
  2. jaguarundi
  3. margay
  4. ocelot
  5. tigrina (oncilla)


  1. Eurasian lynx
  2. Iberian Lynx
  3. wildcat


  1. African golden cat
  2. black footed cat
  3. caracal
  4. jungle cat
  5. sand cat
  6. serval
  7. wildcat


  1. Asian golden cat
  2. bay cat
  3. caracal
  4. clouded leopard
  5. Eurasian lynx
  6. fishing cat
  7. flat-headed cat
  8. jungle cat
  9. leopard cat
  10. marbled cat
  11. Pallas’s cat
  12. rusty-spotted cat
  13. sand cat
  14. Sunda clouded leopard
  15. wildcat


For the sake of completeness let’s say the domestic cat lives across the entire planet but of course is not found in Antarctic or is it?

My thanks to Jim Sanderson and Patrick Watson (Small Wild Cats) for their help in writing this.

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